Though all “thinking people,” as they are still sometimes called, must by now have more than a vague idea of the dangers which mankind runs from modern techniques, George Orwell, like Aldous Huxley, feels that the more precise we are in our apprehensions the better. Huxley’s “Ape and Essence” was in the main a warning of the biological evils the split atom may have in store for us; Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks of the psychological breaking-in process to which an up-to-date dictatorship can subject non-cooperators.
The story is brilliantly constructed and told. Winston Smith, of the Party (but not the Inner Party) kicks against the pricks, with what results we shall leave readers to find out for themselves. It has become a dreadful occasion of anguish to-day conjecturing how much torture even a saint can put up with if the end is certainly not to be a spectacular martyrdom – but “vaporisation.” The less you are familiar with the idea of the agent provocateur as an instrument of oppression and rule the more you will shudder at the wiles used by the Ministry of Love in Orwell’s London of 1984, “chief city of Airstrip One, Oceana.” An example of the way things are managed: Emmanuel Goldstein, the proscribed opposition leader, is a fiction artfully sustained by the authorities to lure deviationists into giving themselves away.
It is an instructive book; there is a good deal of what every young person ought to Know – not in 1984, but 1949. Orwell’s analysis of the lust for power is one of the less satisfactory contributions to our enlightenment, and he also leaves us in doubt as to how much he means by poor Smith’s “faith” in the people (or “proles”). Smith is rather let down by the 1984 Common Man, and yet there is some insinuation that common humanity remains to be extinguished.
—Source: The Guardian